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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Living Resistance by Kaitlin Curtice 
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I sat down with Kaitlin B. Curtice's "Living Resistance: An Indigenous Vision for Seeking Wholeness Every Day" about a week after having been diagnosed with bladder cancer, the latest in a long line of significant health issues that began when I was born with spina bifida over fifty years ago.

This is my second experience with Curtice after "Native," a book that informed, educated, inspired, and challenged me in a myriad of ways. I must admit that I initially found Curtice intimidating, a combination of her undeniable intellect and her passionate exploration of the intersection between Indigenous spirituality, everyday faith, and the living out of church life.

I was changed by "Native," deeply so, and with "Living Resistance" I have found a literary companion to the life I live as an activist, a friend, a neighbor, and a person living with disabilities who sometimes feels as if I am living in this world as an "other."

I was almost immediately struck by the emotional resonance that radiates throughout "Living Resistance," a soulful transparency that brings Curtice's words to life in a glorious way. While Curtice's relentless intellect remains vividly at the forefront of her writing, "Living Resistance" also brings to life Curtice's charismatic presence as a poet, storyteller, and speaker.

There's a quote on Curtice's website from Barbara Brown Taylor - "Kaitlin Curtice is one of the braver writers I know. She won’t smooth any edges for you and she won’t let you change the subject, but she’ll support you digging as deeply for your roots as she has for hers.”

Indeed, I must confess that I was initially intimidated by Curtice precisely because she doesn't smooth the edges or lower her expectations. I have seen this very truth come to life while following her on social media and in my own limited encounters with her. Even as Curtice's writing in "Native" convicted me, something I acknowledged in my review of the book, I surrendered as my sense of intimidation transformed into a deep respect for this author who feels like a wise elder (acknowledging, of course, that I am in fact the elder here!).

As I began reading "Living Resistance," I began to realize that the universe had, once again, placed in my hands the perfect book at the perfect time in my life. While I had been convicted in "Native" regarding my far too #Hashtag filled approach to my own Indigenous ancestry (my family has strong connections to the Choctaw nation), as I approached "Living Resistance" it became apparent that this would immerse me in my life within the disabled community into which I was born and which has defined my very roots.

I have often proclaimed, admittedly with more than a little anger, that the prevalent ableism in healthcare has disabled me far more than my paraplegic, double amputee body. This ableism is prevalent throughout society and, yes, is also displayed more internally than I like to admit. "Living Resistance" imagines a world where we learn to practice embodied ways of belonging to ourselves and one another through everyday practices. Curtice explores four "realms of resistance" - the personal, the communal, the ancestral, and the integral - and shows how these four realms overlap and why these four realms are needed for our liberation.

I will confess that I cried more than once during "Living Resistance," initially at this idea of "belonging" to ourselves as I realized that my first challenge in now living with cancer is to learn what it means to love my body in this way. It is not easy, but it is essential.

As is always true with Curtice, readers are empowered to seek this wholeness of which she writes and by the end of "Living Resistance" will feel motivated to and better equipped for the journey. "Living Resistance" is not a prescriptive book, however, but rather a book of visioning and surrendering to the possibilities.

For Curtice, "Resistance" is a basic human calling and is for everyone who longs for a world where everyone is provided the opportunity for holistic flourishing. In my own life, this has been lived out at times in various grassroots ways like my 6,000 miles on the Tenderness Tour and now in my professional position as the first person with a disability to be the Director of Provider Relations for the state agency serving individuals with disabilities. "Living Resistance" offers a road map with twists and turns, peaks and valleys on the journey toward a more equitable world with love and justice, hope and mutuality at its center.

In the disability community, those of us of a more progressive nature often challenge those who say we "inspire" them by responding "What do I inspire you to do?" Inspiration is not inspiration unless it is followed by action. Indeed, I can easily see Curtice saying the same thing "Save the platitudes. What are you inspired to do?" By the end of "Living Resistance," I felt better equipped as an activist, a friend, and a neighbor to care for myself, for others, and for the world around me in increasingly tangible ways.

And yet, perhaps most of all at this time in my life, I also felt myself ready to love myself with cancer and to share this journey as transparently as possible in a way that speaks to the holiness of this journey and the worth of my body for healing, wholeness, and to give and receive love.

With remarkable openness and profound insight, Kaitlin B. Curtice's Living Resistance" is a bold, compassionate vision for a better world for everyone.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic